There are few things that render one as helpless feeling as the failing health of a friend or family member. Watching someone struggle to recover or fight hard against an illness is hard to do and leaves one wondering what more could be done. Sometimes a “get well soon” card just doesn’t seem like enough, and while running errands or helping them with everyday tasks like cleaning can help ease their burdens, it doesn’t go the extra mile of actually brightening their day and taking their mind off the challenges they are facing. These are the times to send flowers. Rather than send cut flowers in a vase that bloom brightly and then fade, potted plants are a great alternative. The lovely, flowering azaleas are the perfect pick for this occasion.
In the Victorian language of flowers, azaleas are said to send the message “take care of yourself for me” and are symbolic of devotion and gentleness. A small, flowering shrub native to Asia, Europe and North America, these pretty plants have been selectively cultivated for hundreds of years and many different varieties exist. While most readily known as a landscape plant, there are new cultivars that are perfect for a bedside table or sunny windowsill. These dainty, blooming varieties that make good houseplants are called “florist azaleas” and should be available most of the year from your local florist.
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The colorful flowers of the azalea are prolific and cover the tips of every stem. They come in red, pink, white and light lavender or peach colors reaching more than an inch across. A florist azalea should be in bloom whenever you purchase it, and with good care will re-bloom in the spring or winter. Pruning the tips of the plant after blooming can encourage new growth and flowering. The dark green, oval-shaped leaves of the azalea cover short, woody stems and are usually sold in pots about 6 inches across. Slow-growing, they should stay fairly compact and under a foot in height. Happy with being pot-bound, most azaleas can stay in a small container for many years without needing to be transplanted. Happy with a little extra moisture, these plants should be watered a little more often than your other houseplants and prefer a slightly acidic soil. While there are plenty of fertilizers for acid-loving plants, you can accomplish this easily with a few used coffee ground watered in from time to time.
Health is a gift, but when you can’t give that- try some azaleas.